Ballymena Show always attracts a fantastic turnout of sheep, and 2024 did not disappoint in this regard.

The man charged with the responsibility of judging the inter-breed classes was Johnny Aiken from Cumbria, who is a native of Banbridge in Co. Down.

He selected a Suffolk shearling ewe, exhibited by the Watson family, as his champion of the show.

Also catching the eye on the day was a marvellous Border Leicester shearling ewe, shown by the Dickey family, from Ballymena.

Aiken described his champion as a “very balanced young animal”, adding:

“The ewe caught my eye as soon as she entered the ring, but she was up against some very stiff competition. The overall standard of the sheep entered for the event was brilliant.”

Aiken paid particular tribute to all those taking part in the sheep young handlers’ competitions.

“It was great to see so many young people getting involved in such a proactive manner,” he said.

Aiken confirmed that farmgate prices are strong at the present time, “but they need to be at these levels, given the costs confronting farmers right now”.

Jason Booth holds the inter-breed dairy champion at Ballymena Show 2024 (right). He was joined by Janes Patton with the inter-breed reserve (centre) and John McLean with the honourable mention in the Holstein Championship. Also pictured is Jason’s daughter, Emily and James Magee, from AHV

Ballymena Show was also marked by the largest turnout of pedigree dairy stock at any event held in Northern Ireland this year.

Making this happen was the tremendous number of Ayrshire cattle entered for the various competition classes.

The inter-breed championship class was a close run thing involving the top Holstein and Ayrshire cows from the event.

But, it was George and Jason Booth, from Stewartstown in Co. Tyrone, who came away with the main silverware.

His Holstein fourth calver – Beechview Doorman Bridget – looked an absolute picture in the ring. She calved back in March and is currently giving 50 plus litres of milk per day.

Judge Andrew Patton described his champion as a great example of the Holstein breed: “She has scope, an excellent udder and all-round dairy character.”

The reserve inter-breed rosette was awarded to another outstanding Holstein cow, exhibited by Geoffrey Patton from Carrowdore in Co. Down.

George and Jason Booth are having a summer to remember in 2024. They picked up the dairy inter-breed title at last week’s Armagh Show. The pair also had a very successful Balmoral Show back in May.

Thoms Nevin, from Coleraine, with the Hereford and Native Breeds champion at Ballymena Show 2024

Meanwhile, competition was equally strong within the beef classes, held at Ballymena Show 2024.

The inter-breed championship was picked up by Alan Wilson with is superb Simmental heifer: Ballinlare Farm Nikita.

Judge, John Moore, described his champion as a heifer with “fantastic breeding potential”.

Ballymena saw a reversing of roles relative to Armagh Show seven days earlier, where the Limousin heifer of Kilkeel breeder, Trevor Shields – Glenmarshal Theduchess carried the day.

“I am aware that the Limousin heifer took the inter-breed at Armagh. In my opinion both animals are great examples of their respective breeds, and there really is only the toss of a coin between them.

“However, I thought the Simmental had that little bit of extra show presence when she came into the ring,” Moore said.